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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Scouting Report: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope spent two years at Georgia, after electing to stay with his hometown school despite being named a McDonald's All-American. The decision has kept it from the spotlight, but it didn't make scouts forget about his natural ability to shoot the basketball. Caldwell-Pope earned SEC Player of the Years honors this season - his sophomore year - and scored in double digits every game of the season. In one of the most dysfunctional offenses in a Big 6 conference, KCP still found ways to score every single game.

Its hard to get a read on how good of a feel Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has for things on the offensive end. There weren't many talented players on Georgia's offense and the Bulldogs lacked any kind of rhythm on that end of the court. Their most effective offense play was to get their star player coming off of a screen near the arc in order to set up a long jumper off of either one or two dribbles. It was very ugly basketball, but with a shooter like KCP, he was able to bail them out quite a few times.

While KCP's shot selection has been questioned, it was more a product of the players around him. He did take some bad contested shots in transition, but it was because he knew that was the best look he'd get at the rim the entire possession. Georgia didn't ever create easy looks for themselves and Caldwell-Pope constantly had a man in his face in the halfcourt. The only play Georgia really had to get him open was the aforementioned screen play at the top of the arc and that was extremely predictable.

Smart defenders were able to give KCP a hard time on those plays because KCP generally took one or two horizontal dribbles to his left before shooting a long range jumper. There wasn't much creativeness in his game. Just a constant display of how talented KCP is in making extremely tough shots. Surely Georgia could have done a lot better job getting him open, but KCP could have also done a better job himself moving without the ball. He was forced to post up outside the 3-pt line a lot of the ball or catch the ball 5 feet beyond the arc to even get a touch. Watching Crabbe yesterday to do his scouting report, there is a stark contrast in their feel for the game and ability to move off the ball.

Again, part of this has to do with coaching and teammates. And its up to teams to figure out how much Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can improve with good coaching. But if you look at Caldwell-Pope on the defensive end, it doesn't seem like he has a great feel for the game on that end either. Thats not a positive indicator.

Caldwell-Pope is a faceguarder on defense and gets caught up on overplaying his man. He loses track of the ball very easily and doesn't understand help defense. While Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can be a tenacious defender and take a guy out of the game, he doesn't understand the team concept of defending. He doesn't have a huge wingspan to be a lockdown type in the NBA, so he's really going to have to improve his court awareness.

Compared to Crabbe, he gives a lot more effort but doesn't have the same awareness. Crabbe is kind of the opposite - he can get too caught up in ball watching and lose his man. Crabbe has a perfect frame as a defender, but doesn't have the mentality to be a big time defender. To me, their defense is kind of a wash. You aren't drafting either of these guys because of their defensive abilities.

In terms of offensive skills, Caldwell-Pope struggles to handle the ball. When teams aggressively trap when he's coming off of a screen, he often either makes a bad pass or is forced to pick up his dribble. If he doesn't get to his spot in two dribbles, he has a habit of just picking up the ball. He also doesn't feel comfortable attacking the pick and roll inside the arc, choosing instead to just pull up for jumper after jumper. His dribbles often doesn't get him anywhere vertical - they are more horizontal to the basket.

He does have a good first step and a nice jab step to set up his jumpshot. And he is very good shooting off of one or two dribbles, even when he doesn't get the greatest separation. He especially loves to shoot moving towards his left. KCP isn't a guy that will isolate and use a crossover to create separation however.

His jumpshot is extremely balanced and he gets it off very quickly. He is able to pull up in transition and has the range to pull up from beyond NBA territory. His balance is something you generally don't see from players of his age.

But his balance on his jumpers also has a downside. He doesn't seem to have the ability to shoot in a fluid motion coming off of a screen. He doesn't ever fade from the basket which is something all the great shooters are able to do to get off their shot. KCP is always straight up and down with his shot. With the screens Georgia had to use to get KCP open, its a wonder if a NBA team can/will be willing to put in that much of an effort to create a shot for him. Or if he will be able to improve his game to be able to do it for himself.

Creativity is certainly something he lacks and he appears to be very stiff in the hips. He plays the game very upright and combined with his short arms, it seems to limit his ball handling ability. Caldwell-Pope has good enough hands to get into the lanes - but a lot of that is because of his first step. He is a straight line driver with not much in between game besides his balanced pull up jumpers. Lots of his shots going towards the rim end up being low percentage shots because he doesn't do a good job of gathering himself and slowly plays down. He is, however, able to be an effective finisher in college because of his explosive athleticism.

Passing wise, he makes a lot of lazy passes and doesn't have great vision. He looks to be very one-dimensional as a playmaker. On transition opportunities, he seems just as content to pull up for a quick transition 3 ball versus trying to get all the way to the rim.

There is a lot of intrigue with Caldwell-Pope and in a draft like this, teams are desperate to find guys with enough talent to be taken in the lottery. KCP can be one of those guys that at least looks the part and has the shooting ability. He is athletic, a great shooter, can hit off the dribble, and has the ability to be a good finisher at the rim. He also gives good effort and there is a mystery to him about how much better he can get with improved coaching/teammates. He is viewed to have more potential than other shooting guards ranked below him because he has the best combination of shooting ability and athleticism.

Thats the basis of the hype around him. A more likely scenario for Caldwell-Pope is him turning into a guy like Nick Young. Someone who lacks a high basketball IQ and takes a lot of ill-advised jumpers. These kind of guys are very one dimensional and only add scoring, but don't even always do so in an efficient matter.

The more I look at these shooting guard prospects, the more I am convinced that Allen Crabbe is a better pick than Caldwell-Pope. Crabbe isn't as easy of a sell as a lottery pick, but he is the better overall player. And if you can get Crabbe 20th versus Caldwell-Pope in the lottery, you are getting a LOT better value.

To read my previous scouting report on Caldwell-Pope from last summer, click here.

3 comments:

  1. interesting. i was really impressed with Pope's defensive intensity watching his draftexpress videos, and would definitely prefer a guy who is too vehement in the man to man than a guy who I have to convince to try harder on defense.

    this is probably related to the fact that i am a bulls fan and everything you said about Pope defensively is 100% true of jimmy butler.

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  2. Thats a fair point and I wouldnt argue one way or the other about who will be the better defender. I think they both will be fairly nondescript as defenders. KCP's aggressiveness and lack of awareness gets him in trouble more times than not.

    As for Butler, he always had a knack for being in the right place at the right time along with a very high BBIQ. Hes a lot more versatile on the defensive end as well - he could even cover PFs in college. Ive always been a big fan of his and KCP's defense doesnt measure up at all. I went back and dug up old tweets about Butler I made back in his junior/senior yr of college: http://nbaprospects.blogspot.com/2013/05/jimmy-butler-getting-it-done-for-bulls.html

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    1. butler is a marvelous player, but he becomes a worse defender when he doesn't have a big time scorer to basically guard one-on-one. and he also has a very pedestrian wingspan. jimmy has the better IQ, but Pope shares his quick feet and hands, his willingness to consistently get into good defensive posture and his intensity level. but whereas butler is a 2,3 or very occasionally 4 defender, i see pope as a pure backcourt defender (1s, combos and average sized SGs).

      i certainly wouldnt bet on him to match butler, but i do think youre selling him short when you compare him to crabbe, who frankly still has everything to prove on that end.

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